RapidSOS Out at Sea: Aiding Emergencies in the Water

by Hfbtech

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Practice drills, life vests, and knowledge of the waters can only do so much for people when waters get rough. With a weakened sense of direction and balance, emergencies in the water can feel more frightening for those in dangerous situations. For the 9-1-1 telecommunicators and dispatchers responding to calls, locating distressed callers in the water is a daunting task.

Because cell towers don’t work farther than 10-20 miles off the coast, 9-1-1 telecommunicators can’t accurately pinpoint a caller’s location. Even if callers are within range, cell towers don’t always provide the most accurate, real-time information about a caller. Those behind the headset must resort to asking for landmarks near callers to find them in time. Hotels, restaurants, and shops serve as reference points for identifying locations. Even these details, however, can be inaccurate when stressful incidents disorient callers.

Over the past few months, we have teamed up with Apple, Google, and Uber to supplement Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) with rich data from personal devices, apps, and medical profiles that have saved people in water emergencies all across the United States. Location data provided through the RapidSOS Clearinghouse is updated in real time, even as the caller moves. Situational awareness for first responders is key as they tread dangerous waters to save lives.

Read on for success stories from coast to coast, as 9-1-1 uses supplemental data to locate citizens in water emergencies.


From Massachusetts… 

  • What was supposed to be a fun kayaking outing on the Taunton River soon turned into a nightmare for a caller and her family. The caller  was accompanied by her brother and his wife when the group was caught in a microburst in the middle of the river. The winds picked up, the river became turbulent, and soon enough the three kayakers lost sight of each other. After a phone call to 9-1-1, telecommunicators tracked the family and rescued them quickly. 
  • In Nashoba Valley, the Lancaster Police and Fire Departments responded to a text from a woman who had become lost after her kayak flipped in the Nashua River. The NVRECC dispatch team successfully found the lost kayaker with the help of Text-to-9-1-1 technology and location data provided by RapidSOS Portal.
  • Authorities located a 73-year-old woman in Wareham, near the coast of Bourne Cove, after she was struck by a motorboat while swimming. Telecommunicators accessed location data through RapidSOS Portal, quickly locating the wounded woman and dispatching first responders to the scene. 

To Florida…

  • A Pinellas County fisherman was rescued after his kayak overturned in the water. Using RapidSOS Portal, a supervisor at the center tracked the man’s exact location in the water – even as he floated further from land. 

To San Francisco… 

  • After a boat crashed into Alcatraz, a frantic person on the boat called 9-1-1 but was not able to give telecommunicators a precise location. The telecommunicator using RapidSOS Portal was able to pinpoint the exact building that the boat was next to and sped up the rescue process. 

To Hawaii…

  • In Maui, Hawaii, RapidSOS Portal quickly and accurately located distraught callers that had fallen out of their canoes. After inputting the phone number into the portal, the callers were identified in the middle of the ocean outside their resort.

When distressed callers are in need, RapidSOS is honored to provide ECCs with the supplemental life-saving data necessary to accurately pinpoint them and administer emergency response – whether that be on land or out at sea. All across the nation, RapidSOS is grateful to aid 9-1-1 in successful water rescues.



Get RapidSOS Portal Today!

There are two ways for PSAPs to access life-saving data from the RapidSOS Clearinghouse – through existing PSAP software systems or through RapidSOS Portal. To make sure you don’t miss out on having access to life-saving data today, follow these two steps:

Step 1: Claim your agency’s 100% free, zero-commitment, RapidSOS Portal account in minutes today. 

Step 2: Set up a meeting with your RapidSOS public safety representative to determine the easiest path to an integration through your CPE, CAD, or mapping software.